Creating modern knowledge hubs

RegioStars 2010 FinalistThe public libraries in Olsztyn, Poland, and Marijampole, Lithuania, each opened an innovative multimedia centre offering a broad range of individual and group courses to children and adults. Besides teaching new skills in a cheerful and dynamic learning environment, the centres have lured more visitors to the libraries themselves.

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Learning is fun and interactive in the public libraries’ cheerful Multicentres. Copyright: Multicentre, Olsztyn. Photos available for multiple use. Learning is fun and interactive in the public libraries’ cheerful Multicentres. Copyright: Multicentre, Olsztyn. Photos available for multiple use.

“More than 1 400 elderly citizens have learnt how to operate a computer and write and send emails.”
Ilona Sekścińska, project manager and library custodian

Local residents have taken free courses in computer, music, languages, science and art, taught by professional IT specialists, musicians, artists and teachers in a dynamic learning environment. The emphasis is on fun and interactive education using modern computers and other equipment, including video cameras, musical keyboards, and devices to measure speed and sound.

Lifelong learning in the library

Working together allowed the libraries to share the costs of buying software, as well as hold video conferences and other joint activities. The centres cater primarily to children, but also welcome adults (including senior citizens) and people with disabilities who take part in classes and other activities.

Everyone who takes part in a course receives a certificate of achievement. The courses have not only taught new skills and self-confidence, they have also transformed the libraries’ public image from dull collections of archaic books into lively, unconventional learning institutions. The success has inspired the creation of seven similar centres in Poland and a second in Lithuania.

Economic and social rebirth

Olsztyn and Marijampole are the capitals of their regions, both among the poorest in the EU. ICT skills and overall educational levels are severely lacking in both regions, which are dominated by agriculture and other traditional sectors.

By providing innovative and attractive learning methods for people of all ages, the centres sought to bring about the long-term economic and social rebirth of the regions. This is seen as very probable, given the fact that the centres are constantly filled with children and adults, learning new skills on the computers.

The project was conceived and led by the Olsztyn public library, which opened its multi-centre three months earlier than the one in Marijampole. As a result, the Polish partner could share its experience with its Lithuanian counterpart, and both could test their equipment in virtual cross-border communication (like e-conferences and joint weather forecasting).

Local authorities in Olsztyn and Marijampole have committed to financing the operation of the multi-centres for five years, covering staff salaries and other expenses so that the centres can keep providing free services. The project has also prompted several joint initiatives between the centres and local schools, cultural institutions and other organisations.

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